Devon Alexander was confident of victory heading into last December's clash of former champions with Amir Khan. Unfortunately, the southpaw’s body wasn’t in sync with his mind, and Alexander lacked endurance in dropping a near-shutout unanimous decision.
“I tried to win the fight, but the energy level just wasn’t there,” Alexander says. “I’m dangerous when I'm mentally and physically healthy. But when you can’t pull the trigger, you can’t pull the trigger."
Perplexed trainer Kevin Cunningham watched Alexander "The Great" labor against Khan, just as he did during his fighter’s unanimous-decision win over Jesus Soto Karass in June 2014 and a unanimous-decision loss to Shawn Porter that dethroned Alexander as a 147-pound titleholder in December 2014.
“Devon’s energy level had dropped significantly in his past few fights,” says Cunningham, the career-long trainer of the 28-year-old former two-division champion. “So we had a doctor who gave a diagnosis that his adrenal glands were low.”
Adrenal hormone production helps to balance and manage blood sugar and a person’s daily ebbs and flows of energy. Although common, low-adrenal function is often missed by standard blood tests. But it contributes to fatigue, and Alexander and Cunningham are convinced it’s what affected the fighter’s stamina in recent bouts.
“They basically treated him with some all-natural supplements, and he came back after a few months of being on those supplements,” Cunningham says. “His adrenal glands were back to normal, and I’ve noticed a normal level of energy in the gym.”
Devon Alexander (26-3, 14 KOs) plans to prove the energy issue is a thing of the past when he takes on 33-year-old Aron Martinez (19-4-1, 4 KOs) on Wednesday at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona (ESPN, 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT).
“We've rectified the problem, and you'll see that against Martinez,” Alexander says. “We'll get back to being fast, smart [and] elusive, with some power added to it."
“ I’m dangerous when I'm mentally and physically healthy. But when you can’t pull the trigger, you can’t pull the trigger. ” Devon Alexander
Alexander won and defended his 140-pound championship by consecutive eighth-round stoppages over ex-titleholders Junior Witter and Juan Urango in August 2009 and March 2010, respectively.
Stopped for the first times in their careers, Witter and Urango capped a stretch of five consecutive stoppages for Alexander as he improved to 20-0 as a pro.
Alexander then sandwiched decisions over former champion Andriy Kotelnik (August 2011) and hard-punching Lucas Matthysse (June 2011) around his first loss to Tim Bradley, who took Alexander’s 140-pound title with a narrow unanimous decision in January 2011.
“The Kotelnik fight was the first time I noticed something missing in Devon,” Cunningham says. “All of a sudden, Devon's energy level was not the same. He used to be busier, throwing combinations with power.”
At the time, Alexander cited extreme weight loss for his subpar performances against Kotelnik, Bradley and Matthysse, the latter of whom floored Alexander in the fourth round of a split decision.
“When you go from dominating opponents [and] then something like that happens, you know something’s not right,” Alexander says.
After moving up to 147 pounds, Alexander dominated his first three bouts: one-sided unanimous decisions over hard-punching Marcos Maidana in February 2012 and hammer-fisted Randall Bailey in October 2012—the latter for a title—as well as a seventh-round stoppage of Lee Purdy in a nontitle fight in May 2013.
But since that solid run, Alexander has dropped two of three contests, making Wednesday’s bout with Martinez a potential career-altering one. Should things not go his way, however, the St. Louis native insists he won’t use his health condition as an excuse.
“Everybody on my level can fight, and if anything’s wrong with you, then it’s going to cost you dearly as a fighter,” he says. “I know I’m way better than [I’ve shown in] my losses. I could have beaten Porter, Bradley, all of them. I expect a whole different thing for this next fight. We’re going to get back to the top.”
For complete coverage of Alexander vs Martinez, visit our fight page.